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West End News Dec. 16

Wolf tracks in the snow
Wolf tracks in the snow

Finalcut_WEN_20111215.mp34.59 MB

Today, I have two stories of local boys making good - both with West End connections.

This weekend, a big-time, national touring rock band called Gentlemen Hall will be appearing at Papa Charlie's nightclub at Lutsen Mountains. It will be a homecoming for the band's lead guitar player and singer, Jacob Schmidt. Jacob was born in Cook County, raised in Lutsen and graduated from Cook County High School before heading off to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee School of Music. Jacob is the son of Carol Perkins from Lutsen and Jim Schmidt from Grand Marais. Jacob showed musical aptitude early in life and was an accomplished guitarist by the time he started high school. Jacob and his equally talented brother, Josh, were mentored by several older musicians in the area and quickly became popular performers in the region. While at Berklee, Jacob naturally played music with classmates and other musicians from the fertile Boston music scene. This led to the founding of Gentlemen Hall, followed by winning several awards, attracting a loyal fan base and a contract with a professional management company. The band is currently on a nationwide tour and some quick thinking by Lutsen Mountains marketing manager, Jim Vick, landed Jacob and his band mates at Papa Charlie's on Saturday, Dec. 17, starting at 9:30 p.m. Be there, or be square.

MinnPost, the excellent, statewide online newspaper, ran a feature story this week about the Johnson brothers, Colee, Skyler and Clay, from Hovland. The young men’s parents are Kathi and Rusty Johnson. They are also related to a number of West End residents including great aunt and uncle Carol and Ron Gervais from Tofte, aunt and uncle, Misty and Tim Schliep from Schroeder, and second cousins Terry Gervais and Cindy Hansen from Tofte - which makes them my second cousins by marriage. The MinnPost article is part of a year-long project called "Rural Minnesota: A Generation at the Crossroads" that explores the lives of young people and how their choices might be shaping the future of outstate Minnesota. The Johnsons are notable for being very young entrepreneurs, having started a firewood business while they were still kids to now owning their own general logging company. It is no surprise to anyone from Cook County that the writer highlighted how hard they work. The young men come from a long line of honest, hard-working people. Congratulations to the Johnson brothers on getting some well-deserved attention for their determination and grit. You can find the article by going to and searching on the keywords Johnson Brothers.

Winter is unfolding in slow motion here at Sawbill. A couple of light snows have combined with the sparse existing snow cover, resulting in a scene that begins to approach the ideal for the holiday season. Lake travel by foot or ski is easy right now. The cold weather has formed over a foot of ice with no slush and the snow cover is just enough to give you a grip without having to do any serious trail breaking. We've had a couple of parties pass through on fishing expeditions in the wilderness. Neither group did well with the walleyes, but they enjoyed beautiful weather and scenery.

Last year, we had two albino chickadees that attended our feeders all winter long. The first one we noticed had a faint black spot on its tail and was a regular at our home feeder. The second one was almost pure white and fed exclusively at our office feeder, which is only 90 feet from the house. We never saw either bird at the opposite feeder, which answered the long-standing question about whether or not the chickadees feed from both feeders, or just one. We were hoping that our little albino buddies would return this season, but it's starting to look like that won't happen. A little research informs us that the average life span of a chickadee in the wild is two and a half years. The oldest chickadee ever documented was 11 years old. It makes sense that the white chickadees enjoy extra camouflage protection from predators in the winter, but stick out like sore thumbs once the snow melts. Nature is a harsh mistress at sometimes, but wonderful to observe in all her variety.